“I am going away, for a month or 6 weeks, to consult with some people and suggest certain things. Is this vague enough? I hope to meet Miss Bell shortly, since we are much on the same tack. Letters will not be forwarded to me, as I am to be so little away. You must expect a break in my letters of at least three weeks, and possibly longer.”
T. E. Lawrence to his family (The Home Letters of T. E. Lawrence and His Brothers, edited by M. R. Lawrence, published by Blackwell, 1954).
Towards the end of March, Lawrence found himself sailing away from Cairo carrying a letter of introduction to Sir Percy Cox, the chief political officer in Mesopotamia. “I send these few lines to
introduce Captain Lawrence,” wrote Sir Henry McMahon, the British High Commissioner in Cairo. “He is one of the best of our very able intelligence staff here and has a thorough knowledge of the Arab question in all its bearings. I feel sure that you will find him of great use.”
Lawrence’s mission was twofold: first, to seek the co-operation of
local Arabs in an uprising against the Turks in Mesopotamia. His
second undertaking lay in the events unfolding at Kut, on the River Tigris roughly halfway between Basra and Baghdad. Since early
December 1915, 17,000 Allied troops under the command of
General Charles Townshend had been besieged in the town. With serious shortages of food and no chance of relief, Townshend was considering surrender to the Turks. At the heart of Lawrence’s
secret mission was a £1,000,000 bribe to the Turks which Lord Kitchener hoped would bring about Townshend’s relief.